2. Rafting the Grand Canyon….August, 2021 

Day 5 7.30 thru Day 11 8.5…and so it begins 
We had to be in the lobby by 6:45am to turn in our burlap, blue & white bags to be loaded on the bus.  AZRA—Arizona Rafting Company, our outfitter—would also store one bag at the hotel for us while we were gone.  We’d be leaving around 7:30am & everyone was anxious in more ways than one.  There were 22 of us…all Virgins for floating in the Grand Canyon….those poor guides!

We started out the trip on a 3 hour bus ride to Lee’s Ferry.  I had been the most worried about the bus ride since I get motion sick so easy.  I downed a Coke & two dramamine & hogged the very front seat.  I’m happy to report, I was great during the whole ride.  

At Lee’s Ferry, we got our first, of many, orientations.  Then we learned how to load the boat, all put on our life jackets & off we floated!

The monsoon season has been huge this year & the latte-colored thick muddy water is now in it’s original state.  We’d all get to know this river in such personal ways…we pee in it, wash up in it, use it to clean our dishes, cool off in it, float down it, get smacked in the face by it over & over & over…it would become such a big part of our lives over the next 8 days & 226 miles.

My entries will be different for this trip.  I had no cell phone, no watch after the first day when it got drowned by rapids, no calendar…just sunrise, sunset, stars & water.  So, I’m going to categorize instead of going day by day too much…but I want to share this amazing trip with you!

We had a few more orientations that day…our first stop was for lunch.  So we were told how that would go everyday.  Then when it was time to stop for camp, another orientation about how to set stuff up, what critters to watch for, how the groover & pee bucket worked & then how dinner would happen.  

I’ll begin with the boats & Guides.  We had to two giant motorized boats.  They weren’t the same set up, so each day we’d choose which boat we’d want to ride on.

On one of our hikes, one of our younger Guides, Ryann, told us about a man & his history with the Colorado.  This is his boat that crashed when he perished on the river.  Ryann is studying oral history & is such a great storyteller.  With a quiet demeanor, & a smile that never quits, she’s another really great Guide & learning to pilot the boats.

The morning of our first full day, I woke up with migraine.  Neither of us had slept the night before, so we got to ride in the ‘Tea Room” for the day.  Cushy, but not as fun as the front!

We had to be ready to pull out by around 8am.  So, they started making coffee about 5am.  It all coincided with the sun coming up & since most of us went to bed around dark…8:30 or 9pm…we were all ready to get up with the sun.

Each day we could choose what boat to ride & most of the time where to sit.  This one below is Amity’s boat & I loved riding ‘cowboy style’ in her boat.  You straddle the box in front, holding on tight with one hand in front & the other behind you.  Going up & down those giant waves felt like riding a bronco…only an old bronco & getting freezing water in the face over & over.  But I loved it!

Our two boats.

This is typically what lunch looked like.  We’d pull over & park, all five Guides would fix us amazing lunches & we just rested, soaked & hydrated until it was time to eat.  The food was delicious…meal after meal.  Lunch was sometimes wraps or sandwiches…cheese, roast beef, turkey, taco salad, BLT’s, etc.  So good.  Everything was super fresh & super good quality.  Dinners were hamburgers & brats one night, steak, spaghetti, curry & always followed by dessert.  Breakfast was good too.  The best peaches & canadian bacon I’ve ever had!  These Guides work so hard…it’s a 24/7 job & they have to deal with so many situations & personalities.  Kudos again to these amazing River Guides!

Jill enjoying the day!

This is the day we ran Crystal Rapid.  Rated a 10 but more for it’s danger if something goes wrong rather than it’s ‘fun-factor’.  Something did go wrong for one of the private trips & when our guide scouted the rapid, they came back & told us they could see a boat turned over on the island in the middle of the rapid, but couldn’t see any people out there.  So we ran this big nasty rapid but easy-peasy (from a non-pilot’s perspective) then pulled the boats over to the side to join two other commercial trips that were on the same river-schedule as we were & the private trip that was in trouble.  So, there are about 4 other big motor boats besides ours & everyone was just sitting there when we arrived. Our head Guide asked if there was anything she could do & if everyone was alright.  They needed to borrow AZRA’s Sat phone because the other companies phones weren’t working.  Alex, gave over the phone but was quickly given it back.  The pilot of the private trip was so shaken up he couldn’t use it & asked her to call the Park Service.  So she did.  Meanwhile, while all the other guides from the other companies just sat in their boats, our trip leader, Amity, went over to see if she could do anything for the guy who was injured.

In a few minutes, our super duper badass female Guides, gently & calmly controlled the situation getting everything as taken care of as it could be, while the other Guides just sat.  Everyone on our boats were in awe & had so much respect for these women.  Then, we backed out of the space & continued down the river.  So freakin impressive these ladies are!

This was our trip leader, Amity.  She has about 20 years experience as a River Guide & Pilot.  She impressed every one of us with her skill, her calm demeanor, her knowledge of geology & Native American history.  Every single day she impressed us but she never showed her ego…never once.  So very awesome & badass!

This is Alex…not only the other pilot but her & her husband own AZRA.  Her father & grandfather owned it before her.  We connected right away & I have nothing but wonderful things to say about her.  She is not only super skilled, but compassionate, funny, kind, intuitive, observant, & can run along the boat pontoons while it’s still floating—tell us a story about the canyon—then run back to the controls.  Wow….she is spectacular!

We had three other young women as Guides—Ryann, Emma & Karina.  Probably all in their 20’s but really interesting already in their young lives.

Our camps.  Each night we’d camp in a new spot as we floated downstream.  All were sandy, some were rocky, all had the unending perfect sound of the river.  Most had ants of varying sizes but all had the potential to bite, all had bats, the last two days those camps had a million flies (gross!), but every camp was under a magnificent dark sky but filled with a gazillion stars.  I always tried to find us a camp away from the chatter, snores & dorm-like set up of the other campers.

Jill & I set up a tent on the 2nd night but slept cowboy style…out in the open under the stars.  I did that every night but the night I was bit by a Harvester ant, in between my toes.  That little sucker sent pain through my foot almost as bad as childbirth.  I was grateful for the tent to be able to roll around, curse up a storm at that friggin ant & try all kinds of things with my foot in the privacy of a tent.

Some nights we would all gather round in one big circle to eat dinner.  As the flies got worse, our groups broke up into small ones to try to outsmart the flies…it didn’t work.

The boats carry a small library in an ammo can & I took advantage to read & learn more about the Canyon.

Some nights camp looked like an explosion of everything!

After everything was unloaded from the boat each night, the Guides would all sit on the boat & take a well earned break.  We’d all set up camp, soak in the water, put our beverages in the drag bags in the water to cool & get ready for evening.  Most of us changed clothes into a sundress or something different than we’d worn during the day.  This surprised me, but everyone did it including all the Guides.

I even brought a sundress to wear in the evenings!




Jill in her ‘rogue’ style hat (it had been squished in her dry bag).


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